It’s 2019 and the topic of diversity and inclusion within the workplace is only growing. The past few years have given us social movements like Black Lives Matter and MeToo that tell us our diversity issues are not solved. HR’s efforts to create and promote a diverse workplace seem to be falling short.

Why aren’t initiatives backed by diversity metrics working?

Well.. traditional HR diversity metrics don’t paint an accurate picture. Traditional metrics typically just look at the number of people in certain diverse groups. Answering questions like, what percentage of the workforce are women or people-of-color or over 40. It is a good thing to know these numbers but they don’t tell a full story. Even pulling metrics that look at how many women hold leadership roles or that compare the salaries for men and women, may not help create effective solutions.

Understanding Intersectionality

We have to dive deeper into the sub-categories of where these groups intersect. Intersectionality was coined by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw during the late nineties in her paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”. It speaks to how individuals face different challenges when the disadvantages of their two identities interact. A black woman has unique obstacles to overcome that neither black men nor white women encounter.

For example, let’s look at a big gender equality issue for today’s workplace, equal pay. According to Payscale’s “The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2019”, women earn $0.79 of every $1.00 a man makes. When that statistic is dug into a little deeper and looked at based on the race of women, not all women are treated the same. White women are actually earning $0.80 for every dollar. While black women and Latinx women are only earning $0.74. But, Asian women are actually surpassing white women by making $0.93.

You can see how by pooling all women together, creates an inaccurate representation of what is really going on.

Yes, all women are underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. But, how you address the issue for black women will need to be different than white or Asian women. Research has shown that initiatives that market to benefiting women, only help white women and negatively impacts women of color. 

Another example is women in leadership. To give some perspective from the Pew Research Center, women make up 51% of the US population and 47% of the workforce. Only 5% of Fortune 500 companies have CEOs that are women. Now, let’s take into account intersectionality and look at black women in leadership. Black women make up 12.7% of the US population, but not one is represented in the group of CEOs that run a Fortune 500 company. There is only one woman of color CEO in the entire Fortune 500.  

Looking at intersectionality starts to raise questions like “why are black women not equal to even the fellow women counterparts?” “What unique challenges are they facing?” Even if it is only a small group of employees, finding the right solutions to fit the unique issues will create meaningful change.  

Inclusion is key diversity, but intersectionality can be the padlock

Creating metrics around intersectionality also helps to understand how inclusive your workplace is. Individuals who fall into these intersected groups tend to be overlooked, forgotten, or disregarded within the workplace leaving feeling invisible. Intersectional invisibility directly contradicts inclusion efforts. Without inclusion, your organization becomes a revolving door for talent that can’t take advantage of the benefits of a diverse workforce.

Diversity and inclusion continue to be a hurdle for organizations to face. Metrics and analytics help, but only if they are looking at the right data. It is important to know the overall demographics of your organization. But to make a true impact, intersectionality needs to be taken into account as well. Be an agent of change and use your data effectively to make a meaningful impact within your workplace.

Having a robust HR Dashboard can help manage your diversity metrics. It will quickly provide intuitive visualizations for your workforce data without you having to make the calculations. Saving you time so you can focus on the solutions. Sign up today for a free demo of our automated HR dashboard